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14 / 30 books. 47% done!

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50 / 52 books. 96% done!

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87 / 165 books. 53% done!
Thursday, May 23, 2019

Historical Insane Asylum Novel Heartbreaking, But Hopeful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As the daughter of a wealthy San Francisco businessman, Charlotte Smith knows exactly what's expected of her.  She's to conduct herself as a refined young lady ought, marry the man her parents select, and hold her tongue should she have any complaints.  Charlotte's prepared to follow the predictable course set out for her life—until her beloved older sister is sent away.  Phoebe might be a little different, but Charlotte knows she doesn't belong at Goldengrove, "a Progressive Home for the Curable Insane."  Determined to rescue Phoebe, Charlotte schemes to get herself sent to Goldengrove.  Shocked by the deplorable conditions at the hospital and the horrifying treatments forced on the patients, she vows to get both herself and her sister out.  But that's not nearly as simple as it may seem ...

Both heartbreaking and hopeful, Woman 99 by Greer Macallister shines a harsh light on the misunderstanding and mistreatment that characterized mental health "care" in the late 19th Century.  Depictions of life inside Goldengrove are graphic enough to make a point, but not so explicit as to elicit more than a PG-13 rating.  Still, this is an eye-opening, thought-provoking novel.  It's peopled with a host of "inconvenient" women who are brave, loyal, and compassionate.  While I liked the premise of Woman 99 and its cast, I didn't end up loving the book.  Macallister's prose is clunky, more tell than show, and the story wraps up in a way that feels convenient and inauthentic.  Overall, then, I didn't adore this one like I thought I would.  It's still an engaging read, just not as satisfying as it could have been.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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Homecoming by Kate Morton

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The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King



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